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Ella Fitzgerald: ’S Wonderful: Ella in Japan

In January 1964, Ella Fitzgerald toured Japan with the Roy Eldridge Quartet. Norman Granz, no longer owner of Fitzgerald’s label, Verve, yet still her personal manager and professional Svengali, recorded the Tokyo leg. For months afterward, Granz prepared what was to be Ella in Nippon, a follow-up to 1960’s Grammy-winning Ella in Berlin. Why did the album never surface, the master tapes left gathering dust for 47 years?

The answer seems fairly easy to decipher. In July ’64, Granz recorded Fitzgerald, again with the Eldridge quartet, at Juan-les-Pins. The results were stunning and, perhaps of greater commercial importance at the time, the playlist more diverse, incorporating hits of the day like “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “The Girl From Ipanema.” With the market for jazz vocalists fading rapidly as rock’s British Invasion escalated, Granz simply opted for the seemingly stronger Juan-les-Pins sessions. It turns out, though, that the Japanese sessions are equally good.

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